02 March 2018

Georgia Senator Trammell Starr and Whitecapping

Trammell Starr was, by nearly all accounts, a well-respected citizen of North Georgia.  He was a lawyer and held political office, representing Whitfield County beginning in 1894.

But there's also this proposed smear that created headlines across the country in the last month of 1894:

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)
15 December 1894 - pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

3c27756vA LURID TALE.

A Witness States, Under Oath, That a Ku Klux Society Flourishes in Georgia at the Present Time.

Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 14. – In the trial of the Whitfield county whitecappers in the United States court today, evidence of a highly sensational character was given by one of the witnesses.  The case on trial is that of the United States against C. C. Brown, Berry Turner and W. B. Callahan.  The witness who furnished the sensation was C. F. Ogles, a well known citizen of Tilton.

Mr. Ogles…said that in the spring of 1892 he met with a crowd of men in an old barn at Tilton to form an organization for mutual protection.  He had been advised to join it because he would be safer inside than outside of it…

Three weeks ago [Mr. Ogles] met the same crowd several miles from Tilton for the purpose of electing officers.  The officers elected were Charles Brown, captain; W. L. Brown, lieutenant, and Green Tredwell, Rufe Greer, W. B. Griggs and Frank Morgan, referees…  In talking with other men in Whitfield county he found that they were members.  The witness then told the court that Green Tredwell had told him that Paul Trammell, United States revenue collector for the northern district of Georgia; Mr. Trammell Star, [sic] state senator from that district; Representative Longley, Mr. Martin of the firm of Jones & Martin, lawyers, and Mr. John Black, the mayor of Dalton, were members of this organization, and would protect anyone of them who got into trouble or were taken before the courts.  The story is not believed here.  Collector Trammell and Mr. Starr both laughed at the statement.

"Why, it's well known," said Mr. Trammell, "that both Mr. Starr and myself have been very active in trying to suppress lawlessness in that part of the state.  The charge is ridiculous and there is not one word of truth in it."

Seems like a case of he-said-he-said to me, but the following was published in the Macon Weekly Telegraph (Georgia) two days later.

MaconWeeklyTelegraph17Dec1894THEY ARE NOT WHITECAPS.

Collector Trammell and Senator Starr Fully Exonerated.

Atlanta, Dec. 15. – (Special.) – Internal Revenue Collector Trammell, Senator Starr, Maj. Black of Dalton and the other prominent north Georgians alleged to be members of whitecap organizations by C. F. Ogles, a witness in the United States court, were fully exonerated today.  Collector Trammell himself went upon the stand and denied the charge, while Green Treadwell and Columbus Caldwell, the men whom Ogles claimed gave him his information, also swore that they had never made such statements to him.

Regardless of the accusation and denial above, Trammell Starr was lavished with effusive praise upon his death, which came just four days after his 39th birthday in 1896.  Following published in Volume 14 of The Delta of Sigma Nu Fraternity.



Trammell Starr is dead!

Whitfield mourns, and North Georgia cannot be comforted!

Dalton hangs her head in deepest sorrow, and her men, women and children weep over the bier of a beloved brother.

After a sickness of exactly ten weeks, from blood poison, Thursday morning, October 22d, 1896, at 11:30, Col. Trammell Starr breathed his last, at his Thornton Avenue home, surrounded by loving relatives and friends, and devoted wife and children.  For two weeks little hope had been entertained for his ultimate recovery, and he and his have been deeply sorrowing over his condition, and earnestly praying for his recovery.  During all his suffering, he was patient and gentle, and he was fully prepared for the end.  His death was but a happy transition to heaven.

Col. Trammell Starr was born in Gordon county, October 18th, 1858.  His father was John Henry Starr, and his mother's maiden name was Miss Rosetta Trammell (sister of Col. I. N. Trammell) a worthy couple of highly respected, God-fearing people.  He was reared on the farm.  He graduated from the North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega, with his brother Oliver, in 1878, both working for the money to educate themselves.  After leaving college, he taught school at Fort Mountain, Murray county, reading law at the same time, and was admitted to the bar in 1879.  For ten years he lived in Spring Place, practicing law, and for a while was owner and editor of the Murray Times.  He married, in 1884, Miss Onie Kelly, of Spring Place, and came to Dalton in 1890, entering into a partnership with Col. Sam P. Maddox.  He never ran but for one office – State Senator, in 1894 – and was elected by a large majority, leading the Democratic ticket by a good vote.  He has been quite successful in his practice and investments, and leaves an estate worth about $20,000.  We [sic] was a self-made man, and one of the brightest specimens of that species, being at the time of his death, the most prominent young man in North Georgia, one of the purest and ablest men of the State, and with the brightest possible prospects before him.  Had he lived he would have easily been the next Solicitor of the Cherokee Circuit.  He early joined the Masons, and was a Worshipful Master for years.

Three children have blessed his marriage, and he leaves them and a devoted wife to mourn his loss.

He was a man true in every relation of life, and a consistent, working member of the Methodist church, a member of the Board of Stewards, and a painstaking Sunday-school teacher.  As a husband and father, he had no superior; he was loving, devoted and true, and the loss to his family is truly great.  May God heal their broken hearts, and He alone can.

No man in this section could have died whose loss would have been more severely felt in Dalton, and throughout this entire section; no man ever more fully had the whole love of all the people, and no one would have been mourned for more deeply and more generally than Trammell Starr.

His loss is a sad blow to us al.  The Argus and all the people join the family in their sorrow, and sympathize with them in their bereavement.

He will be buried this (Friday) evening at 2:30 o'clock, with Masonic honors from the First Methodist church, Rev. B. F. Fraser officiating.  Full account of the funeral services next week. – Dalton (Ga.) Argus.

Also memorialized on the same stone as Trammell is his son Donald Peyton Starr (27 Jan 1892 - 16 Oct 1933). They were buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton.

A Note about Whitecappers

William F. Holmes wrote an essay titled Whitecapping in Late Nineteenth-Century Georgia that was published in the book, From the Old South to the New: Essays on the Transitional South (1981).  In it, he wrote "whitecapping was a term that became widely used in America between 1887 and 1920 to describe vigilante-type raids conducted by bands of disguised men."

moonshinerWhitecapping was (still is, and not incorrectly) commonly associated with racial tensions in the South, as implied in the Ohio newspaper article transcribed above by linking such an organization to the Ku Klux Klan.  Yet Mr. Holmes dedicated his essay to "an outbreak of whitecapping that was directly related to conflicts between federal revenue agents and moonshiners in four north Georgia counties in the 1890s." Basically, those who distilled liquor for a living didn't take too kindly to the taxes levied on them by the Federal government.  The ones who refused to pay the taxes became moonshiners.

According to Mr. Holmes, "Serious conflicts did not begin until 1877, when the commissioner of internal revenue reported that the thousands of illicit stills operating in the southern Appalachians caused the government to lose thousands of dollars annually." The anti-moonshiner campaign began, and violence followed.  For the most part, however, the moonshiners fought back individually or only in small groups.  During Reconstruction, the KKK did offer their services "in some counties" by attacking "people suspected of testifying against [illegal] distillers."

In 1888-89, a "larger and better organized group, the 'Distillers Union,' was formed in Murray County, from which it subsequently spread into the neighboring counties of Gilmer, Whitfield, and Gordon…This secret, oathbound organization…had the original objective of protecting distillers.  Members took an oath, signed in blood, promising to supply alibis for fellow members arrested for moonshining."

Members "also agreed to whip witnesses [with no regard to race] and to drive them out of the region; witnesses who refused to leave would be killed, as would members who violated their oath.  As the whitecap organization grew, it became subdivided within each county into local clubs over which a captain presided." It is one of these such clubs, I believe, Trammell Starr was accused of being a part.


Miss Merry said...

Very interesting article on the white caps. I love your southern history. What an obituary !

Stephanie Lincecum said...

Thanks for the comment, Miss Merry!

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